Is it a boy toy, a girl toy, or do adult brains not get it?

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

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This year, I asked my daughter to share a few tips for kids when building their Christmas list. I figured she’d say things like “ask for the moon,” or “practice your cursive.”

Because she is smarter than I am, she settled on things like “there is no such thing as a boy toy or a girl toy,” and “there are just toys for kids.”

Strangely, we don’t always get this.

Adults need to be better at remembering this. Because we are pretty awful at reinforcing gender stereotypes in the way we segment toys for boys and girls. I don’t know that we even know we’re doing it. And I for sure don’t think we know that we are damaging our kids when we do it. Because we’re parents, right? We just do things that are best for our kids, don’t we?

And there is no reasonable way to believe that any of us could be so strange and wrong as to expect every girl would like one set of things and every boy would like another.

Butttttt, I can’t tell you how many times my daughters are asked “who’s your favourite princess?” and how rarely they are asked “what’s your favourite Star Wars animated series?”

But still, when we do our shopping for the people on our lists, we sway back and forth when we’re “in the wrong aisle.”

As adults we need to get better at listening to kids when they tell us what they are interested in. Because when we don’t do that, when we force what we like into their hands, we tell them what is right for them to like and what is wrong for them to like.

The fight to play with what they like shouldn’t be placed on the shoulders of three-year-old’s.

A boy’s list:

  • dolls
  • pink LEGO
  • princess costume
  • strollers
  • bake sets
  • make your own jewelry kits
  • makeup
  • ponies
  • science kits
  • telescopes
  • trucks
  • hockey sticks
  • video games

A girl’s list:

  • dolls
  • pink LEGO
  • princess costume
  • strollers
  • bake sets
  • make your own jewelry kits
  • makeup
  • ponies
  • science kits
  • telescopes
  • trucks
  • hockey sticks
  • video games

It is also incredibly important to note that this is not a one-way decision. This isn’t simply encouraging girls to play with more superheroes and coding games. Too often it’s boy who we refuse to allow to break free from the traditionally masculine toys.

If you look at enough toy advertisements that are hailed as being diverse, many of them will feature girls playing with stereotypically masculine toys. We can get behind this. We cheer this on. But we don’t as often celebrate the boys cooking in the kitchen because we don’t see it enough. We see Iron Man and Superman in the girl’s section of the clothing store but we don’t see Wonder Woman and Raven in the boy’s side.

We think “oh but they will be bullied” before picking up the LEGO Friends set they asked for or when choosing between two different things they may like—say a doll or a video game, take the “safe route” by going with the video game.

What ends up happening if everyone buys the video game and that desire to play with dolls slowly gets trampled out.

And here I am again, thinking of different ways to explain this mistake we make when the explanation my daughter has given is the simplest one. And the only one we should need.

There is no such thing as a girl toy.

There is no such thing as a boy toy.

There are only toys a kid might like.

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